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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 12-12 No:144    *   DECEMBER 1998/ SHABAN RAMADAN 1419H
email: editor@islamicvoice.com

RAMDAN SPECIAL


The Holy Ramadan
A Blessed month of a Special Nature
Ramadan, A month long Training : Building Our Conciousness of Allah through Fasting
What every Muslim should know about Fasting?
Ramadan Fasting : Scientific Perspective
Lunar Calendar of Muslim Festivals (1419H)
Question & Answer on Fasting


The Holy Ramadan

Foca Bosnia- Mosque

FOCA BOSNIA - MOSQUE

By Serap Akincioglu

Muslims worship Allah as a clear expression of their sincere obedience, thankfulness and devotion to Him. Man, who is in a steady effort to be a good servant to Him, demonstrate His faith by being mindful to His orders and bounds. One of these worships is fasting as decreed in the verse below;

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Sura Al-Baqara, 183)

The importance attached to this worship is stated in many hadiths as well.

Ramadan is a very important month for believers; it is an opportunity bestowed to man to engage in good deeds and become one of those prospers with “heavy scales” in the Judgement Day. A Muslim whose intention is to attain eternal salvation in the Hereafter looks forward to this Holy month. The fact that all Muslims both in Muslim and non-Muslim countries seek repentance and the consent of Allah in this month means a mere solidarity for the world of Islam.

Muslims fast primarily because it is a means of seeking the consent of Allah. Yet, there are also various benefits this worship offers to believers.

First of all fasting is the means by which a believer displays his gratefulness to his Creator, who is the one and only owner of everything around us.

In many hadiths, our Prophet Muhammmad (Pbuh) stated that one of the important aspects of Ramadan is the fact that it is a month bringing blessings to man. Ramadan is the month when believers especially care for the poor, when they provide their free will offerings and when believers try to engage in good deeds...Every believer tries to attain a perfect moral attitude by sharing what is endowed to him by Allah with his brothers and by displaying a great spirit of contentedness. It is a time full of spiritual joy and satisfaction, a time when a good deed is awarded with more blessings and spiritual relief.

No doubt, the greatest award will be given by Allah to those believers on the Judgment Day, who seek no other benefit other than attaining the Will of Allah and be one of those believers who are awarded with the ultimate salvation. Apart from that in many hadiths, our Prophet explained many aspects of fasting bringing happiness and other worldly benefits to believers.

Another favour fasting brings to believers is the nature of spirit full of patience, determination and benevolence. Besides, enhancement of unity and solidarity among believers is another favour Ramadan delivers to man. Fasting, which is a sign of man’s submission to Allah, becomes a means by which believers secure more understanding and social integrity in their individual communities and in the world of Islam as a whole.

Ramadan has a distinctive place amongst other months of the year. In this time, believers have to be ready to be tested physically as well as being tested spiritually. Getting along well with other people, settling disputes, removing anger, hatred and enmity from hearts will give believers relief and welfare.

Indeed, Muslims avoid making gossip of other people, engaging in misdeeds and they primarily become concerned of always thinking the good and beneficial side of things. This is surely the path by which ears, eyes and all other favours given to man display their individual gratitude to Allah.

Another aspect Ramadan reminds man most is the death and the Hereafter. Muslims welcome this month with an intense sensitivity of heart towards matters regarding the Afterworld. They ponder more over the Judgment day, the Hereafter and the ways to attain Heaven. That is why, their primary concern becomes to engage in more good deeds and hence the Will of Allah. For instance, those who are rich think more of the poor and avoid wasting what is given to them by Allah. They refrain from being fond of worldly goods and share as much as they can, being aware of the fact that everything they do will be awarded justly.

However, there is one important point every believer has to keep in mind. This high moral attitude is not something peculiar only to Ramadan. A believer should feel the same way everyday and every hour of his life. This is surely the only way to become the type of believer depicted in the Holy Qur’an. A believer whose ultimate intention in this life is to attain the Will of Allah, would by no means limit himself to a month; he would seek Allah’s guidance and enlightenment at every moment of his life and hence feel close to Him. That is because Allah sees and hears man every moment; He is with man all the time.

Those who have fear of Allah should spend every hour of their life with good and beneficial deeds. Ramadan, therefore, is a time when believers practise their daily regular prayers as well as fasting.

Another distinctive feature of Ramadan is also expressly stated in the Qur’an; Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. (Sura Al-Baqara, 185)

This month is an opportunity for those who hope to become closer to Allah and be an even better servant of Him. We are fortunate that Allah once again favours us with this holy month.

We hope that Allah endows all believers with His mercy and lets His servants experience this month with the ultimate joy of worshipping to Him.

May the Mercy and Compassion of Allah be on all Muslims.

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A Blessed month of a Special Nature

By Adil Salahi

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are the declaration of one’s belief in the Oneness of Allah and in the message of Muhammad (Pbuh), regular attendance to prayer, payment of Zakah and pilgrimage.

If we examine these five pillars, taking into account the fact that Islam aims at improving the quality of human life at both the individual and social levels, we find that the first of these five pillars is concerned with beliefs which influence man’s conduct.

The second, i.e. prayer, aims at providing a constant reminder to man of his relationship with Allah. The third is a social obligation which reduces the gap between the rich and the poor, while the fifth, i.e. pilgrimage, has a universal aspect which unites the nation of Islam.

Fasting in Ramadan, which is the fourth of these pillars, has a particularly high importance which is derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship.

It means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. The fact is that fasting cannot be used by a hypocrite in order to persuade others that he is a devout Muslim. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan. If he is fasting voluntarily on other days, he should not go around and tell people that he is fasting. If he does so, he detracts from the reward for his voluntary worship. In fact, people will find his statement very strange and will feel that there is something wrong behind it.

This explains why the reward Allah gives for proper fasting is so generous. In a qudsi Hadith, which means that it is a statement by Allah but not part of the Qur’an, the reward of fasting is explained in the following way: “All actions done by any human being are his own except fasting which is Mine and I reward it accordingly.” This is a mark of special generosity, since Allah rewards every good action with at least ten times its value. Sometimes He multiplies that reward to seven hundred times the value of that action, and even more. We are also told by the Prophet that the reward for proper fasting is heaven.

It may be noted that we have qualified fasting which earns such great reward with the adjective “proper”. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. Perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of feelings and emotions. The Prophet said anyone who is fasting should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match.

He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity or enter into a slanging match. Should some one abuse or fight you, respond by saying: “I am fasting; I am fasting.” This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting which is, in essence, an act of self-discipline. Islam asks us to practise voluntary abstention from indulgence in physical desire.

This is indeed the purpose of fasting. It helps man attain a standard of sublimity which is very rare in the practical world. In other words, this standard is actually achieved by every Muslim who knows that purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.

There is also a special aspect of fasting. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps draw the rich nearer to the poor.

Indeed we are encouraged to be more charitable in Ramadan in order to follow the example of the Prophet who was described by his companions as “the most generous of all people.” Yet he achieved in Ramadan an even higher degree of generosity. His companions say of him that he was in Ramadan “More generous and charitable than unrestrained wind.”

Fasting has also a universal, or, in Islamic sense, a national aspect. As Muslims all over the world share in the blessed act of worship, they feel their unity and equality. Their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins voluntarily in fulfilling God’s commandment. The unity of Muslims is far from superficial; it is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings.

As one restrains himself from the things he desires most in order to earn Allah’ pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature. He learns to give generously for a good cause.

The month of Ramadan is aptly described as a “festive season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, but people are more attentive to their prayers in Ramadan than they are on other days. They are also more generous and charitable too.

Thus, the month is, to them, one of endless benefits and blessings.

Indeed, nothing describes our great month better than the words of the Prophet as he addresses his companions and all generations of Muslims on the eve of Ramadan: “A great and blessed month is approaching. One of its nights is better than a thousand months. Allah has made fasting in it obligatory, while worship in its nights voluntary. He who fulfills one religious obligation in it receives the reward of 70 such obligations fulfilled in other times. It is the month of perseverance and endurance which can be rewarded only by admission into heaven. It is the month of comforting in which the means of a believer are improved. He who gives food to another to break his fast is forgiven his sins and he saves his neck from hell.

He is also given a similar reward to that given to the fasting person without detracting anything from the other’s reward. God gives this reward even to a person who offers another a piece of date, a drink of water or milk. The beginning of this month is compassion, its middle is forgiveness and its end witness people’s release from the fire.”

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Ramadan, A month long Training : Building Our Conciousness of Allah through Fasting

By Parvez Ahmed

What is the Objective of Fasting?

Taqwa

It appears from a careful reading of the Qur’an that the objective of all Islamic “ibadaat” is to earn “Taqwa” : objective of fasting is taqwa (2:183; 2;187), objective of Quranic guidance is taqwa (2:2); objective of : Zakat” is taqwa (7:156; 4:77); objective of “Hajj” is taqwa (2:196).

What is the Meaning of Taqwa?

According to Abdullah Abbas Nadvi, the “Taqwa” has several meanings; being ever conscious of Allah, always aware of God, alert about Allah, having self-control, protection, abstinence from evil action, fear, of Allah, etc. Taqwa is that human quality of power which protects a man from evil.

What is the Benefit of Taqwa?

According to the Qur’an the God-conscious (Muttaqeen) are guaranteed to get: Allah’s love (3:76; 9:4; 9:7), Allah’s proximity and protection (2:194; 9:36), Allah’s friendship (6:51; 45:19); “Baraka” (7:96), ability to distinguish between right and wrong (8:269) and paradise (3:133; 15:45; 44:51; 50:31; 26:90)

How to Earn Taqwa

(1) By doing out acts of worship (Ibadaat) and remembrance (Dhikr) correctly, with full attention and humility (2:238; 29:45, 23:1; 23:9; 6:92; 70:34, 57:16);

(2) By remembering the Hereafter and death (20:102-104;39:69-70;79:40-41;99:1-8);

(3) By loving Allah and respecting His signs; by reading the Qur’an with tadabbur and acting upon it. (2:121;38:29);

(4) By satisfying our natural instincts in a halal way within the limits set by Allah (2:187; 2:229-230; 4:13; 50:4; 65:1);

(5) By choosing our friends correctly (9:119; 6:52; 6:70). By avoiding peer-pressure and ignoring negative environments.

The Qur’an : O believers! Make taqwa and be with the truthful. (9:119) On being asked whom to choose for making friends. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: “Make friends with such persons who remind you of Allah” (Bukhari). And “A person tends to follow the faith of his friend, so be careful who you make friends with” (Tirmidhi)

(6) By taking our religion seriously (6:70)

(7) By making fervent duas and seeking the protection of Allah (25:74).

(8) By reading the Qur’an with understanding (2:121; 38:29)

A Month-Long Training Camp

Ramadan may be regarded as a month-long army training camp, wherein two types of training are imparted: External and internal. The external training is the physiological training in regulating food and drink and changing the eating schedules.

The internal training is the main objective of fasting. This may be examined in 6 parts :

(1) Control of the Tongue:

Let us consider some Hadith on this point:

(1) “He who believes in Allah and the Hereafter should talk what is good or keep quiet.” (Bukhari and Ahmad).

(2) “Whoever can guarantee the chastity of what is between his two jaws-bones (tongue) and what is between his two thighs (private parts), I guarantee paradise for him.” (Bukhari)

(3) “To achieve salvation, control your tongue, confine yourself to your house and reflect over your sins.” (Tirmidhi).

(4) “A believer does not taunt or curse or abuse or talk indecently.” (Tirmidhi).

(5) “A man slips more by the tongue than by the foot.” (Baihaqi).

(6) “The worst man is he who backbites and causes disruption among friends. Those who indulge in gossips and prattles are the worst people among the believers.” (Ahmad).

Control of the tongue is a must for believers; let us practise this in the coming Ramadan and onwards in the future.

(2) What we Hear:

Surah Mulk (67:23) : “Say it is He who has created you and given you hearing, sight and feeling in the heart. But alas! You express little gratitude.”

Surah Bani Isra’il (17:36) : “And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing, of seeing or (of feeling in) the heart will be questioned about (in the Day of Reckoning).”

* Note the interesting order : ears first, followed by the eyes and heart. (Recent knowledge in Embryology on the order of formation of organs: was formed complete first in the embryo).

Islam teaches its followers not only to refrain from speaking useless words or backbiting but also not to hear evil and backbiting by others.

(3) Training of the Eyes (sight):

Looking at haram things (for example, staring intently at members of the opposite sex) is not allowed in Islam. “An accidental first glance is permissable; but turn your eyes away immediately” (Muslim) “Do not look at an unknown woman for the second time, for a while you are not to blame for the first glance, you have no right to the second.” (Abu Daud and Tirmidhi).

In the event of such happening, say : “A’oozu-bil-laahi-minash-shai-tanir-rajeem” (I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the accursed). Surah Nur (24:30-31) orders Muslim men and women to lower their gaze in presence of the members of the opposite gender and not to look directly at each other. Surah Araf (7:179) tell us that eyes and ears have been given to humans for using them correctly without being heedless about Allah’s limits. Surah Furqan (25:43-44) warns humans about passions and impulses.

(4) The Whole Body:

Some Muslims have a misconception of fasting and they go into a state of semi-hibernation spending the whole day in bed. Some wake up for salaat, but then return to sleep or lie down immediately after the salaat. Some others become cranky and short-tempered while fasting. Ramadan is really a time for increased spiritual activity and self-control. Reading the Qur’an with understanding is highly recommended.

(5) Iftar and Food:

Breaking the fast must be done on time and with halal food. “Break your fast with dates, or else with water, for it is pure.” (Abu-Daud and Tirmidhi) “Take the pre-dawn (Suhur) meal for there is blessing in it’ (Bukhari and Muslim).

(6) Dua-Maq-bool:

It is narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar that the Prophet said : “At the time of Iftar, the duas of the fasting person are accepted”. Just before Iftar, while waiting with wudu (ablution) for the time of sunset, make “duas”;

“Allahumma-innika-’afoowwun-tuhibb-ul-’afwa-fa’fu-annee.” (O Allah! You are the Forgiver; you love forgiveness; so forgive me).

Make Iftar

(break the fast with this dua)

“Alla-humma-laka-soom-tu-wa-’ala-riz-qika-af-tar-tu” (O Allah~ It is for you that I observe fasting and it is with your blessing that I break it).

“There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts, one when he breaks the fast and the other when he will meet his Lord.”

“As a believer is a person who first fulfils Allah’s order and then starts to worry about any shortcomings’ and then seeks forgiveness from Allah.” So, let us turn this Ramadan into an occasion for earning the forgiveness of Allah and the cleansing of our past sins.

It should be noted that there are two things that Allah claimed to be his own, one is the Kaabah and the other is siyam (fasting).

In a Hadith-Qudsi narrated by Abu-Hurairah, the Prophet said: “Allah the Majestic and Exalted said : Every good deed of man will receive ten to seven hundred times reward, except seeyam, for it is for Me and I shall reward it as I like.” (Muslim)

So let us try our best to fast properly; and Allah shall keep his promise. (The Muslim Voice)

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What every Muslim should know about Fasting?

Fasting in Ramadan is fard (obligatory) for every Muslim who is mature and sane, because Allah (SWT) commands;

“So every one of you who is present during that month (Ramadan) should spend it in fasting.” (2:185).

It is not allowed for the woman who has just had a baby and is impure from that nor the woman during her monthly period to fast until they become clean from that and then they are obliged to make up the fasts they missed.

Aisha said, “During the period we have been ordered to make up the fasting but not the prayer.”

* The duty of fasting is not compulsory for those who are not mature. Ibn Abbas narrated, “Whoever becomes old and is not able to fast in Ramadan should donate for every day missed one mudd (which is 544 grams) of grain.” Ibn Umar said “If I become too weak to fast I feed (someone) one mudd for every day missed.” Anas narrated that he became weak one year before he died so he gave away one mudd every day.

If someone is not able to fast because he is sick and it can lead him to more sickness from which he cannot not recover, at that time he is allowed to miss his fast because that is a hardship. “He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in the deen any hardship.” (22:78)

When he has recovered he is obliged to make up for those days missed; “And if any of you is ill or has an ailment in his scalp (he should) in compensation either fast or feed the poor, or offer sacr-ifice.” (2:196)

“But if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is ransom the feeding of one that is indigent.” (2:184)

* Whoever begins fasting and then becomes sick is allowed to break his fast. And whoever is travelling, and is travelling over the equivalent of 80 km, it is up to him to fast or not.

It was narrated by Aisha that Hamza ibn Amr al-Asslami said, “O Rasulullah ! Is there any fast for the traveller?”

Muhammad (Pbuh) replied. “If you like fast and if you like do not fast.”

Thus, it does not matter if fasting is difficult or otherwise during travelling, but it is much better for the one who does not find it difficult to fast; “But who so does good of his own accord it is better for him; and that you fast is better for you if you did but know.” (2:184) It is better for whoever finds it difficult to fast whilst travelling to miss his fast because Jabir bin Abdullah said, “Rasulullah saw a man he had been put in the shade and saw a crowd of people around him (in the course of a journey). He said, Fasting while on a journey is not part of righteousness”.

It is allowed for the woman who is pregnant or the one who is breast-feeding to miss their own fast and they are obliged to make it up later. They can do this if they fear for themselves, their children or even if they have no such fear whatsoever.

The evidence for this is that both Sahih Muslim and Bukhari narrated that Anas bin Malik al-ka’bi said that Muhammad (Pbuh) said, “Allah (SWT) relieved the traveller from fasting and part of the prayer, and the pregnant woman and the suckling woman from fasting.”

This hadith did not mention any restriction about permitting missing the fast but he mentioned a general rule for pregnant and suckling women only because they are in that condition. They are obliged to make up the fasts they have missed as it becomes like a loan on their necks which they should pay back.

* It is not allowed to fast in Ramadan except by making an intention, because Muhammad (Pbuh) said that all actions are judged by intention. The intention is obligatory for every day, because fasting each day is a daily worship which begins with the start of fajr (dawn) and ends with maghrib (sunset). It is not allowed to fast in Ramadan or any other obligatory fast by making the intention during the day of that fast, but it should be a premeditated intention from that night. When one makes the intention, it should be specified that one wants to fast specifically for Ramadan though this is not necessary to spell it out because it is sufficient to intend it in your heart.

“And eat and drink until you see the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears.” (2:187)

It is forbidden while fasting to eat or to drink or to allow any water to enter the body via the mouth, nose or ear.

* Permitted to you on the night of the fast is the approach to your wives.” (2:187)

The above is an indication that it is not allowed during the day. If he did intercourse with penetration and ejaculated or not his fast is broken, if he did intercourse outside without penetrating and he ejaculated his fast is finished, and if he approached his wife without penetrating and without ejaculating his fast would continue. Umar said, “I kissed while I was fasting, I then said, O Rasulullah! I have done a big deed; I kissed while I was fasting. He said, “What do think if you reins your mouth with water while you are fasting?” I said to him, “There is no harm in it.” Thus he made analogy between kissing and rinsing the water in the mouth for wudu. But if the water arrives in the body then it will break the fast, so approaching one’s wife without entering her and without ejaculating is similar and will not break the fast.

* If anyone vomits deliberately then his fast is broken because it is narrated by Abu Hurairah that Muhammad (Pbuh) said, “Whoever vomits deliberately has to make up for fast. And whoever vomits naturally does not have to make it up.” The scholars understood from this hadith that whoever vomits intentionally should make up one day but whoever did so involuntarily should continue his fast so long as he did not swallow back any of the vomit.

* If anyone eats intentionally, forgetting it is a day of Ramadan, he need not make up his day nor need he pay atonement (Kaffara). (This is the opinion of the Hanbali and Shafi schools. For the Maliki and Hanafi schools, whoever eats intentionally during Ramadan should make up the fast and pay kaffara). Abu Hurairah narrated that Muhammad (Pbuh) said, “Whoever forgets and eats during the month of Ramadan, he does neither need to make up his fast nor is he required to pay kaffarah (atonement).”

(This is the opinion of the Hanbali and Shafi’i schools.) Whoever eats intentionally during Ramadan should make up the fast and pay kaffara). Bukhari also recorded “Whoever forgets any fast and eats or drinks should continue his fast because Allah is the one who feeds him.” If a fasting man eats or did intercourse and thinks the dawn has not risen or he thinks the sunset is upon him when it was not, his fasting would not be counted and he would have to make it up.

Narrated by Hisham ibn Urwah from Fatimah from Asma, “We broke our fast in Rasulullah’s time on a cloudy day and we discovered that sun had not set, so Rasulullah ordered the people to make up the day.”

(Hisham said it must be done. Whoever breaks his fast during Ramadan without any excuse, but not the one who made intercourse, he is obliged to make up the fast because he Rasulullah (SAW) said in the previous hadith, “whoever vomits intentionally should make up his fast,” and the other hadith spoke of the loan of Allah being paid.)

And whoever breaks his fast by intercourse without any excuse he is obliged to make up his fast and pay kaffarah (atonement) because Rasulullah (Pbuh) ordered the one who made intercourse with his wife during Ramadan to make up his fast and to pay kaffarah and because Abu Hurairah narrated, A man came to Rasulullah (Pbuh) and said, “I am undone!” He asked him, “What has happened to you?” He said, “I did intercourse with my wife in Ramadan (while I was fasting).” He said, “Can you set a slave free?” He said, “No.” He again asked, “Can you fast for two consecutive months?” He said, “No.” He asked, “Can you provide food for sixty poor people?” He said, “No.” He said, “sit down.” Then a huge basket containing dates was brought to Rasulullah (Pbuh). He said to him, give it as sadaqah (alms).” He said, “O Rasulullah! There is no poorer family than mine between the two lava plains of (Madina). Rasulullah (Pbuh) laughed so that his canine teeth became visible, and said, “give it to your family to eat.” And that is the kaffarah which should be paid by any who intentionally breaks his fast by intercourse.

* It is recommended to have suhur (a pre-dawn meal) for the fast. It was narrated by Anas that Rasulullah (SAW) said, “Make suhur. One suhur is reward (barakah).” And it is recommended for the one who is fasting to break his fast with dates or if he does not find this then by water.

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Ramadan Fasting : Scientific Perspective

By Ibrahim B. Syed

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. The word Ramadan meant “great heat” as this occurred in the pre-Islamic solar calendar. Fasting in this month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

We read in the Qur’an: ....the month of Ramadan, wherein the Qur’an was sent down to be a guidance to the people, and as clear signs of the Guidance and the Salvation. So let those of you, who are present at the month, fast it; and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then a number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and desires not hardship for you; and that you fulfill the number, and magnify Allah that He has guided you, and perchance you will be thankful. (Surah Baqara, 2: 185)

One can ask what are the benefits of fasting?

People have fast for health reasons. Scientists have studied the effects of fasting on the body and found that the intake of food increases the body’s metabolism. After fasting, metabolism can become as much as 22 per cent lower than the normal rate. But research also has shown that after long periods of fasting, the body tends to adjust itself by lowering the rate of metabolism itself. After fasting, a person should gradually resume eating.

In some studies performed on fasting Muslims and Muslimah, it was observed that there was a slight loss of weight both in the males and the females. Their blood glucose levels increased significantly. Other parameters such as blood levels of cortisol, testosterone, Na, K, urea, total cholesterol, HDL (high density lipoprotein), LDL (low density lipoprotein), TG (triglycerides) and serum osmolality did not show notable variations.

Another study performed about a decade ago in Iran showed that sporadic restraint from food and drink for about 17 hours a day for 30 days does not alter male reproductive hormones, HPTA (hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis) or peripheral metabolism of thyroid hormones. Any changes noticed return to normal four weeks after fasting.

A recent study on “Increased fat oxidation during Ramadan fasting in healthy women: an adaptive mechanism for body-weight maintenance” was performed by Drs. Jalila El Ati, et al, published in the Am. J. Clin. Nutri. August 1995. In this study possible effects of Ramadan fasting on anthropometric and metabolic variables were investigated in healthy Tunisian Muslim women. Total daily energy intake remained unchanged whereas the qualitative components of nutrients were markedly affected. Neither body weight nor body composition were influenced by Ramadan fasting. Results also indicate the concomitant decrease of plasma insulin concentrations with respiratory and energy expenditure during Ramadan.

Fat oxidation was increased and carbohydrate oxidation was decreased during the light span of the nycthemeron. In non-Muslim countries such as the United States the physicians particularly the Family Physicians and Internists should be aware of changes of glucose and bilirubin during the month of Ramadan.

Rheumatic Disease

Fasting may enhance mucosa derived B lymphocyte cell responsiveness while having no effect on B cell responsiveness in both rheumatoid arthritis patients and healthy volunteers. After a three-day, water-only fast, 7 rheumatoid arthritis patients and 17 healthy volunteers received influenza virus vaccine either orally or by injection. One week later blood samples were analyzed for B lymphocyte response. B lymphocyte response was enhanced in the group receiving the vaccine orally in both arthritis patients and volunteers. The response to injected vaccine was unchanged in both groups.

Longevity studies on laboratory animals have shown that restriction of caloric intake increases longevity, slows the rate of functional decline, and reduces incidence of age-related disease in a variety of species. The mechanism of action of caloric restriction remains unknown; however, data suggest that cellular functions are altered in such a way that destructive by-products of metabolism are reduced, and defense or repair systems are enhanced by this nutritional manipulation. Animal and human studies suggest potential benefits of dietary modification, exercise, antioxidants, hormones, and deprenyl.

Effect on Lactating Mothers

The effects of fasting and increased blood insulin and glucose on milk volume and composition were studied with glucose clamp methodology in exclusively and partially breast-feeding women (producing no more than 200 ml milk per day). There was no effect on milk volume, milk glucose concentration, total fat content or lactose secretion rate. It is concluded that human milk production is isolated from the homeostatic mechanisms that regulate glucose metabolism in the rest of the body, in part because the lactose synthetase system has a Km for glucose lower than the concentration available in the Golgi compartment.

Short-term fasting in normal women

In a study which investigated the effects of a short-term fast (72 hours) on female reproductive hormone secretion and menstrual function, it was concluded that in spite of profound metabolic changes, a 72-hour fast during the follicular phase does not affect the menstrual cycle of normal cycling women.

Fasting and healing

Studies are being conducted to treat serious illnesses like osteo-or rheumatoid arthritis or asthma utilizing fasting for a short duration of a few days to medically supervised water (only fasts of 30 days) to help the body heal itself. It has been known that both children and animals refuse to eat when sick as a natural response. The severely sick have no appetite, but they take the food only at the urging of the family members.

The severely sick feel no hunger because food in severe sickness intervenes with natural response. The body is always trying to heal itself. When the patient is resting and consuming water only, the body heals itself and fasting acts as a facilitating process. One can get rid of coffee, cigarettes salty or sugary foods, which are addictive, through fasting, as fasting can help clear the taste buds and healthful foods start to taste better again. However insulin-dependent diabetics should not fast because of ketosis in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes, who cannot break down the ketones and use them as fuel. Healthy people use the ketones (by-products of fat metabolism) to maintain energy. (To conserve the glycogen stores, glucose becomes restricted to the central nervous system, mainly the brain. Instead of taking the glucose from the brain, the body begins breaking down the fatty acids in adipose (fatty) tissue). People with non-insulin-dependent diabetes (the majority of people who have diabetes) can improve their health through fasting.

Fasting helps cardiovascular disease, arthritis, asthma, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, ulcers, and digestive disorders, lupus, skin problems (including cysts, tumors and kidney stones). Even quitting smoking and obesity respond favourably to fasting.

Hence fasting during the month of Ramadan does not cause any adverse medical effects, on the other hand may have some beneficial effects on weight and lipid metabolism.

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Lunar Calendar of Muslim Festivals (1419H)

Data as per the Shariah and Science (1998-99)

By Dr. Syed Abdul Zahir

Islam adopts the lunar year since it is easier to follow by all the societies and all the major and minor communities have been doing so from time immemorial. East hilal or crescent signals the beginning of a new month. There are many reasons for choosing a lunar month. The advantages and disadvantages of the particular season in which the most sacred month of Ramadan falls are shared by the whole world. A solar month would have given the advantages of shorter days and cooler weather to one part of the world and burdened the other with the disadvantages of longer days and hotter weather, especially in the places beyond 40 degree latitude in both the North and the South Hemispheres. The lunar month is more in consonance with the universal nature of the teachings of Islam, and all the people the world over have the advantages and the disadvantages equally distributed and shared. Even though the Christians make use of the Solar year for its calendar, yet, they make use of the lunar system for reckoning all their festivals including the Easter (good Friday), Ash Wednesday except Christmas etc. Most of the festivals of the Hindus, too are also reckoned as per the lunar calendar. Therefore we notice that even today the lunar system is used practically by all the religions the world over in one or the other form. That is why all the important religious dates of the various communities shift yearly against the seasons for example, Easter, Eids, Dipavali, Chinese and Jews new years.

As regards the prediction of the Ruyath Hilal that in maiden visibility of a fresh crescent is concerned a sound knowledge about the new moon or amavas or Kalachand is very essential.

The Ruyath Hilal or sighting of the crescent on the 29th day of the each lunar month is closely associated with the time and the day of the amavas. Amavas is an Indian word. In English language it is called new moon and in the science of Astronomy it is conjunction and in Urdu you may call it Kala chand. It is a monthly event when the centres of the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are in one line. On the day of Kalachand the time of the Sunrise and the Moonrise is very close and so also the time of the Sunset and Moonset. On the contrary, on the full Moon day the time of Sunrise and Moonset is very close and so also the time of Sunset and Moonrise. (Note in the news papers).

It occurs evenly 29.53 days on an average as the Moon is orbiting round the Earth. The whole darker half of the disc of the Moon faces the Earth, while the bright half faces the Sun. You can well imagine the Moon remains invisible at this time all over the world and so also for about 20 hours before and after the event because of the proximity to the line of the bright Sun. That means the Moon remains invisible for nearly two full days, (Mahaq in Arabic). At the time of the amavas or Kalachand a black Moon can be seen only at the time of a solar eclipse. The event of Kalachand can occur at any time of the day or night at a place. Please note that the visibility of the new Moon or Kalachand is a hilal or crescent. As the meaning goes the new-Moon is not a hilal or crescent. Hilal is usually seen about 20 hours after the event of the Kalachand.

The reason for calling the Kalachand as new-Moon is the fact that the Moon has just completed one full circle round the Earth and a new cycle is going to start. Such a cycle is called an Astronomical lunar month and it is said a new Moon has taken birth for the next cycle or lunar month (astronomical) ever though it is dark and invisible. The Hindus, Christians, Jews, Chinese, Parsees and others, who were all previously dependent on the sighting of the crescent for each new lunar Month, have all changed on to the simple Astronomical month. But our community has adhered, as per the Sunnath, to the complicated and age old criterion of Ruyath Hilal, hence the problems. But much against the Shariah rules, most of the Arab countries and Kerala in India have adopted the time of occurrence of the event of the Kalachand a new-Moon as the criterion for a fresh month, as such the lunar months start one or two days earlier in those countries (Read Qur’an e Shareef Chapter 9-37). As per the decision taken in the world conference of the Muftees and the Ulemas a few years back, the sighting report of the witnesses on the 29th day of the month should be discarded if the report conflicts with the basic scientific understanding and natural laws or Imkane Ruyath Hilal, that is report of the Islamic Astronomist.

Note that for the Ruyath Hilal to occur after the Kalachand, the Moonset on the day should occur atleast about 30 minutes after the Sunset (Moonset longitude) and the event of the time of the Kalachand should have occurred atleast about 20 hours earlier (age of the Moon). Daily news papers provide all this information. The chances of Ruyath improve as we go West the same evening, as the Sunset later, (Note Ruyath for Ramadan below).

The International Lunar Date Line (modified) has been shown in the map as per the above scientific facts.

Ruyath Hilal for the Month of Ramadan 1419 H

map.gif

International Date Line

        Map sketching International Lunar Date Line ( ILDL) on Dec 19th,20th for Ramdan
        U - - -> Dates and Places of Postive Ruyath Hilal
        - - - - > Dates and Places of Negative Ruyath Hilal
        Note Hilal first visible in Central America on Dec, 19th after Kalachand.
        Note Hilal visible only on the West of the ILDL and invisible on its East.

Ramadan:

The Ruyath Hilal for any month must occur always after the event of the Kalachand or new Moon. The Kalachand for the Ramadan occurs at 4-12 AM 1st on December 19th. By the evening the same day the age of the Moon is only about 13 hours and the Moonset Longitude is 31 minutes. In Makkah about 15 hours and 35 minutes, In Morocco about (8 hours and 42 minutes. In C.America about 26 hours and 54 minutes. Hence there is no question of Ruyath in India on the Dec 19th. But further West and nearly another 12 to 13 hours later in central America the Ruyath Hilal occurs first in the world on Dec 19th itself (see the map). It goes without saying that Ruyath occurs cent percent in the whole world the next day in Dec 20th, and Inshallah Ramadan starts in India on Monday the Dec 21 st, so also in S.Arabia, Africa and Europe and the most of America. As per the Shariah and science it is almost absolutely impossible to sight the hilal in all the countries East of the Atlantic Ocean including S. Arabia on Dec 19th. Any announcement of positive Ruyath on Dec 19th in these countries amounts to tampering with the Shariah calendar that is against the Sunnath and so also the Qur’an Kareem (Chapter 9-37).

Eidul Fitr (Shawwal):

The Kalachand or Amavas or the new-Moon occurs at 9-16 PM. 1st January 17th. The next day evening on Jan 18th the age of the Moon is about 21 hours and the Moon set longitude only about 45 minutes. The hilal will not be visible in India as the moon is near its apogee. The Ruyath Hilal occurs first time in the world in Somalia or the Eastern Coast of Africa and in Makkah on January 18th itself where the age of the Moon is about 24 hours and the MSL about 53 minutes. The Ruyath also occurs on January 18th in Northern Africa and the Americas. The Ruyath occurs 100% in India and the rest of the world on January 19th and inshallah the Eidul Fitr falls cent-percent on Wednesday the January 20th. We are going to have 30 days of fasting in the ensuing Ramadan in India.

Eidul Adha (Zul Hijjah):

The Kalachand or the new-Moon for the month occurs on March 17/18th at mid-night 12-18.A.M. 1st. The same day evening the age of the Moon would be 18 hours and the MSL 41 minutes in India, as such the chances of the Ruyath are poor. But further West, the chances of the Ruyath are good in Makkah on March 18th itself. The Ruyath Hilal occurs cent percent in India on the 19th March and Eidul Adha falls on March 29, Monday, and one day earlier in Saudi Arabia. (Map appears in March issue).

Muharram 1420 H:

The Ruyath for this month occurs first time in the world in the Eastern Coast of the Pacific Ocean close to Ecuador and Peru on April 16th evening. Hence the Ruyath occurs in the whole world cent percent on April 17th and InshAllah the Islamic New Year Day, 1420h starts on Sunday the April 18th. Wishing a happy and prosperous new year to the esteemed readers.

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Question & Answer on Fasting

Let Fast be a Spiritual Benefit

Q. Not all people are capable of being saintly figures. Does it therefore mean that fasting is more rewarding for this class of people and more needed for the more worldly?

Fasting should move me to be a better person but I look forward to the table full of food in the evening more than the purely spiritual benefit. And this makes me feel tremendously guilty.

Men are equal in their capacities to fulfil the piety and virtue which Allah has made incumbent upon them. Our bodies may weigh down our spirits so as to make them incapable of moving and rising towards Allah.

Our wish for material needs and welfare may overcome our humanity unless we keep up the exercise of our spirit and constantly turn to Allah in prayer rather than simply being satisfied with the mechanical performance of kneeling, prostration and recitation. Hence it is our duty wherever possible to stop all activities which tend to weigh us down, shackle our spirit or give dominance to our material welfare over our humanity.

Islam imposes fasting as a means for achieving virtue and piety. Piety, virtue and righteousness are all equivalent. The righteous are those who are pious, who prove their 'Iman' (faith) in Allah and who, by following the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (Pbuh), fulfil the requisites of the verse where Allah says, "Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may learn virtue and piety".

But if the purpose of fasting is that the body must abstain from food and drink from dawn till sunset and then in indulge in the enjoyment of all sorts of pleasures, we have missed the essence of fasting.

Such conduct is tantamount to bringing Allah to witness that the fast was not made in purification of the body and strengthening of the humanity. To those who are guilty of this, fasting is a burden and they may comply simply as an outward show of compliance to placate society. This is hypocrisy.

This case is likened to the person who does not steal simply because the law prevents him from doing so. The enriching ethics and consequences of willing acceptance pass him by.

Must we eat a Pre-dawn Meal?

Q. How important is it to have Suhur (the pre-dawn meal) before commencing the daily fast?

Sayyid Sabiq is of the opinion that it is preferred for the fasting person to eat a pre-dawn meal. There is, however, no sin upon one for not doing so.

Anas reported that the Prophet (Pbuh) said, "Eat a Suhur, for there are blessings in it." The reason why it is regarded as blessing is that it strengthens the fasting person, makes him more energetic, and makes the fast easier for him.

It would suffice to have a small portion of food, or simply a sip of water. Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri reported that the Prophet said, "The pre-dawn meal is blessed, so do not neglect it even if you only take a sip of water. Verily, Allah and the angels pray for those who have pre-dawn meals."

You should delay the pre-dawn meal as the Prophet said, "My nation will always retain some goodness as long as they hasten to break their fast and delay eating the pre-dawn meal."

Using Miswak and bathing to cool Down

Q. Is it permissible to use the miswak stick to clean the teeth while fasting? Are we allowed to take a shower to cool the body in daytime during Ramadan?

It is permissible for the fasting person to use a tooth stick, called miswak, or a toothbrush. There is no difference if he used it at the beginning or the ending of the day or even during the day itself. At-Tirmidhi affirms that: "Shafi did not see anything wrong with using a tooth stick during the beginning or ending of the day". The Prophet (Pbuh) would use his miswak while fasting.

In a country like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where you live, or anywhere, where the summer heat is intense, one often feels like sitting in cool water in order to soothe the body from the heat.

Abu Bakr ibn Abudurahman reported from a number of companions that they had seen Allah's Messenger pour water over his head while he was fasting due to thirst or extreme heat. This is related by Ahmad, Malik and Abu Dawud with a Sahih chain. In the two Sahih of Bukhari and Muslim, it is related from Aisha that the Prophet would rise in the morning on a fasting day and then would perform ghusl (bathing). If during the bath some water is swallowed unintentionally, the fast is still valid.


Arranging Feast while Observing Fast

Q. 14. Is it right on the part of a Muslim to arrange for a feast for non-Muslim guests while observing Fast during the month of Ramadan?

Ans. The host may even break the nafil Fast (permissible) to arrange for the feast for the guest. Afterwards it can be compensated. During the month of Ramadan, Fast is obligatory, hence it cannot be broken. In such circumstances, there is nothing wrong to arrange for a feast to entertain the non-Muslim guest.

Extravagance in Iftar

Q.15. In the Month of Ramadan, specially at the time of Iftar (breaking of the fast), a lot of dishes are prepared. Is this act not an extravagance and waste?

Ans. Eating of Halal (lawful) dishes and inviting others to eat those food stuffs are lawful. Better alternative will be to make others eat those food stuffs, especially those who are deserving. Extravagance either in the form of Iftar party or on any other occasion is not permissible. A very few eatables may be kept ready for Iftar to keep oneself away from committing the sin of excessive spending. The very aim of observing fasting is to attain Taqwa and also eating less. Unfortunately for us Muslims, Ramadan has become a month of not less eating but consuming more and more!. Needless to say that to spend excessively on any occasion, we are committing wrong from both worldly point of view as well as from the point of view of religion.

Not to Observe Fast during Sickness

Q.16. Because of kidney trouble, my mother cannot observe Fast during the month of Ramadan. Is a sick person exempted from observing Fast? Is she to compensate for them?. Can they be compensated by arranging food for the poor or certain amount can be given to the needy?

Ans. If a man suffers from such a disease, which cannot be cured easily, the fasts of Ramadan are in any way exempted. One has to compensate for them. For each Fast, a poor person has to be fed twice or equivalent amount is to be paid to a needy person. The man who is to be fed need not be a person who is fasting. He must be poor and needy. Similar is the case for paying compensation in the form of money. If the disease is temporary, the unobserved Fast can be compensated for by its observation at a later date.

Lying and abusive talk while Fasting

Q. Does lying, cheating and acts of dishonesty nullify a person's fast during the month of Ramadan?

If we read the Qur'anic verse, "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you may learn self-restraint" (2:183), then we will know that one of the prime objectives of fasting is to control the prompting of the lower passions.

Allah stands in no need of the fasting of one who fails to bounden his acts of dishonesty during this month. The Prophet (Pbuh) said, "He who does not refrain from lying and from (all forms of) ignorance; Allah cares little for his refraining from eating and drinking". Far too much emphasis is placed in a society which has commercialised Ramadan in order to sell more foodstuff to hungry Muslims. Too little stress is place on the spiritual advantages. If the correct emphasis is placed on the spiritual we shall witness a revitalised Ummah as the month of Ramadan progresses.

The Prophet (Pbuh) said: "Fasting is a shield, so when one of you is fasting he should not indulge in foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: 'I am fasting, I am fasting".

It is indeed a great pity that many do not take heed of the lessons and wisdom of fasting. Their fasting in fact becomes reduced to merely starving themselves for the day. We cannot, however, say that their fasting is nullified. That decision we have to leave to Allah. But we can say with certainty that their reward for fasting is greatly diminished.

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